Stories tagged science

Oct
15
2008

Dick and Laura are a young married couple. They've been having trouble conceiving a child. They go to a fertility clinic and begin the process of in vitro fertilization—have a "test-tube baby." The doctor tells them he can test the embryos and tell which ones will be boys and which ones will be girls. Testing an embryo entails a small chance of damaging it.

Sep
24
2008

Charles Darwin, photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1868
Charles Darwin, photographed by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1868Courtesy Julia Margaret Cameron
I believe I have mentioned this film before - but have you ever seen the documentary "Flock of Dodo's"? It is a well made (imho) film that creatively and sometimes humorously, discusses the evolution vs. intelligent design debate. The thing that I find most interesting about this film is that it shows something that I think is important. While I may think people who support intelligent design or creationism are wrong, many scientists who argue with them act like uppity jerks. Its not likely a debate one side is going to "win" but we can all at least accept that and be civil.

Now, if you want to be ready to argue for evolution, Scientific American has put together a nice little web feature that covers the topics of creationism in the classroom, a state by state breakdown of the creationism in schools controversy, 15 answers to creationist nonsense (again, could be a bit less harsh in the language here) and a discussion about how scientists ought to approach religion and its followers.

Sep
10
2008

A ragtag band of scientists marches into the future: right past the LHC department, to the venom cream section.
A ragtag band of scientists marches into the future: right past the LHC department, to the venom cream section.Courtesy StevenM_61
This truly is a season to remember. Scientific endeavors are being undertaken that will live on for a hundred generations in human memory.

Snake venom facial cream, for instance, is now for sale in London department stores.

If you were concerned that your face wasn’t feeling quite envenomated enough (and why would I even write “if”?), give your hideous frown lines and forehead creases a much needed rest. Science has synthesized the venom of the Asian temple viper, and put it into cream form. And, Science’s work done, Gwyneth Paltrow reportedly stands by the product.

According to the manufacturers, the product gives temporary, Botox-like results by “stunning” the skin in a way “similar to a snake bite.” Hmm. Interesting. Let’s look beyond my initial reaction to the prospect of getting bit in the face by a snake (which is, to be clear, a resounding “Yes!”)

The temple viper is named so for its high population in the Temple of the Azure cloud in Malaysia. It is a species of pit viper, and so a cousin to American rattlesnakes. The venom of the temple viper is a hemotoxin, and affects blood and muscle tissue (as opposed to the faster acting neurotoxins present in some snake venom, which affect the nervous tissue). Hemotoxins contain enzymes that destroy red blood cells, and cause general havoc in nearby organ and tissues. Prey killed with hemotoxic venom is easier for snakes to digest, because it tends to break down the tissue in the region of the bite. This means that, even if a victim is not killed by a bite, it is possible to lose entire limbs to necrosis from hemotoxins.

But I hear that it is positively delightful when applied to the face. Pots of snake science are now available for $105 at Selfridges department store in London.

Oh, also, the Large Hadron Collider was turned on today. Apparently that’s sort of a big deal in science too. But it doesn’t do anything for crow’s feet.

Professor Julius Sumner Miller educated and entertained generations of Australians on television with his TV series called "Why is it so?"
Now you too can watch some "enchanting experiments" with the good professor! Both dialup or broadband connections available (click the link above for dozens of episodes).

Geoscience in the middle
Geoscience in the middleCourtesy eigenFACTOR
Eigenfactor is a search engine for scientific journals. They have an interesting interactive way to browse through the various branches of science based on citations in these journals.

Static map
Static mapCourtesy eigenFACTOR
They've taken some of the richest connections between the different disciplines and produced a static map that shows these connections weighted by citation. It shows some interesting flows of information between, Medicine, Cell Biology, Ecology, and Crop Science for example. Now I just need to figure out what "Control Theory" is.

Jul
02
2008

Enthralled science lecture crowd: Pretty soon they'll all be holding up their lighters.
Enthralled science lecture crowd: Pretty soon they'll all be holding up their lighters.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Back a century or so ago, if you didn’t feel like going out to dinner, or attending George Bernard Shaw’s latest production, you’d get all gussied up and go to…a public science lecture.

Historian Lisa Jardine has written a very interesting point-of-view piece regarding how, during the late 19th and early 20th century, science lectures at London’s Royal Institution held their own for attracting audience share.

Crowds of high-society types decked out in evening dress often filled the institute’s Faraday Theater for the celebrated lectures held there on Friday nights. One such event had Pierre Curie demonstrating his and his wife’s latest discovery, radium, before a sold-out throng of neck-craning attendees. Madame Curie was there too, seated in the front row among other distinguished scientists such as Lord Kelvin (at the time propriety and the Institution’s rules didn’t allow a woman to participate in a lecture, and Jardine goes a bit into to this, too). But the point is, the Curies were big stars and attendance was so overwhelming that for the first ever one-way streets were created to handle the carriage traffic.

The Royal Institution building - along with its celebrated Faraday lecture theatre - has been refurbished recently, and Jardine hopes that new science lectures to be held there will help re-ignite a severely lagging public interest in the field. There’s a ton more distractions out there to compete with but who knows, if done right, science demonstrations and discovery lectures could be the next big “thing to do”.

Although the Royal Institution’s mission has been "Teaching the application of Science to the common Purposes of Life", they also managed to make it enticing. After all, science can be both fun and amazing (the cryogenics demonstration put on here at the Science Museum of Minnesota still delights me even after seeing it at least 4 dozen times!)

You can read Lisa Jardine's piece here .

Jun
30
2008

What does this even mean?: Science! Or, like, shower curtains? Secret cancer fat? Whatever.
What does this even mean?: Science! Or, like, shower curtains? Secret cancer fat? Whatever.Courtesy I_vow_to_you
Psyche! Y’all been duped, Buzzketeers! There ain’t no “green sex fat cancer secret”! Or maybe there is, but you’re not going to find it here. No, this is simply a lesson in critical thinking (or something like that).

But, JGordon, why would you of all people do this to us? You, who we turn to you for all that stuff we aren’t that interested in when we’ve already read all the other posts on Science Buzz. Et tu, JGordus? Et tu?

Yes, me tu, y‘all. This is part of your training. Like, remember when Luke Skywalker was learning from Yoda in the Degobah System, and Yoda would be telling him to focus his chi on some rock, and then he’d wallop Luke in the junk with his little walking stick? It was all to teach Luke to protect the jewels, even when he was focusing his chi. This is exactly like that: protect your stuff (intellectual integrity, we’ll say), even when you’re focusing your chi on some rock (i.e. trying to do some learning on the internet).

See, not so long ago, a press release was picked up by ABC (and ultimately several other news outlets) reading “Toxic ties to ‘New Shower Curtain Smell’ Evident,” or something along those lines. It was all about how shower curtains are constantly farting dozens of toxic chemicals, and it came with some pictures of a young mother holding her young baby in a bathroom (presumably to get farted on by their shower curtain?). Google it, jokers.

Some news organizations ran with it, some went about debunking the story; some people continued on with their normal lives, some people began showering out in the open, and, for some people, that was their normal life (weirdoes). Eventually, the Consumer Products Safety Commission stated that there were some serious problems with the original study’s testing methodology, and that the issue deserved some more research before people start getting too scared of their shower curtains.

Whatever the case (the authors of the study at the Center for Health Environment & Justice stand by their research), the point here is that news organizations went bonkers over the story, and people were all about it. The New York Times, then, wrote this article on the situation, pointing out that writers of press releases are well aware of the language that will get people fired up about their dumb, and perhaps questionably accurate stories. Some of the key words to snag a reader’s interest? “Green,” “sex,” “fat,” “cancer” and “secret.” Who isn’t intrigued by green sex fat cancer secrets?

It was interesting to me, too, that so many of those terms are science, or quasi science related. “Green,” sex,” “fat” and “cancer” all seem to qualify. Certainly they’re important issues, if you expand them beyond buzzwords, but some of their importance comes from their ability to get our attention. They get our attention because they’re important, but they’re important because they get our attention. It’s perhaps a worthwhile thing to consider when looking at what science developments are getting a lot of notice in the press, and eventually in public policy. What I’m getting at is this: write your representative and tell her or him to vote “no” on the Fat green cancer/secret sex initiative (prop 401). We don’t need that added to our water.

Think your job is crappy? It could be much worse. Try being a whale dung researcher or an elephant vasectomist. And these aren't even the worst of the 10 worst jobs in science.

May
10
2008

Is your village missing both idiots?
Is your village missing both idiots?Courtesy Chubby Bat
I don't know if these are even true, and I have no one to attribute them to other than my uncle who emailed them to me. But I thought they were worth posting.

CHILDREN'S SCIENCE EXAM ANSWERS

Q: Name the four seasons.
A: Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar.

Q: Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink.
A: Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large
pollutants like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists.

Q: How is dew formed?
A: The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire.

Q: How can you delay milk turning sour?
A: Keep it in the cow.

Q: What causes the tides in the oceans?
A: The tides are a fight between the Earth and the Moon. All water tends to flow towards the moon, because there is no water on the moon,
And nature hates a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins in this fight.

Q: What are steroids?
A: Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.

Q: What happens to your body as you age?
A: When you get old,so do your bowels and you get intercontinental.

Q: What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?
A: He says good-bye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery.

Q: Name a major disease associated with cigarettes.
A: Premature death.

Q: How are the main parts of the body categorized? (e.g., abdomen.)
A: The body is consisted into three parts - the brainium, the borax, and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain; the borax contains the heart and lungs, and the abdominal cavity contains the Five bowels A, E, I, O, and U.

Q: What is the fibula?
A: A small lie

Q: What does 'varicose' mean?
A: Nearby.

Q: Give the meaning of the term 'Caesarean Section.'
A: The Caesarean Section is a district in Rome .

Q: What does the word 'benign' mean?'
A: Benign is what you will be after you be eight

Apr
13
2008

NASA Science website is an awesome resource

NASA Science website
NASA Science websiteCourtesy NASA
To show how useful this site can be, here are links to pages I found as I dug deeper into just one of the many areas on the NASA Science website.

Science for different levels of learning

The NASA Science website provides learning opportunities for four learning groups.

Earth, sun, planets, and astrophysics

The NASA Science website is divided into these parts.